The Scotch-Irish became great pork lovers after they got to America!Lard was once a stable cooking ingredient-and should be again-for if the pig is reared properly the lard will be a powerhouse of vitamin D!
Your great-grandmother would have told you that homemade lard is the best and cheapest cooking fat. It has a mild flavor and a high smoke point. It's well suited for sauteing and frying foods, and it makes the best pie crusts. Rendering lard is the process by which fat tissue is turned into pure fat. I buy lard when it is available at my farmer's market, which is probably the best place to buy lard. I look for pigs that have are "free range", "field-raised" or "pasture-raised", they have been exposed to the sunlight which makes their lard rich in vitamin D. The "organic" label by itself simply means they have been fed organic feed; the pigs will often not have had access to the outdoors. I recommend avoiding conventional (non-organic) pork at all costs, because it's profoundly inhumane and highly polluting. The lard that you can buy at the supermarket is from these factory farmed animals.
If you don't have access to good quality local lard, you can render your own from quality pork fat-there are a few sources online-the Local Harvest website is a good place to start. Look for "leaf lard", which is the fat surrounding the kidneys. It has the highest smoke point and the lowest omega-6 content. It's also practically pure fat.
Caution:This does stink up the house a-bit!No wonder that it was done outside over an open fire back in the day!
TO RENDER LARD
Ingredients and Equipment:
* Baking dish
1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.
2. Cut off any pieces of meat clinging to the fat.
3. Cut fat into small (~1-inch) cubes.
4. Place them into a non-reactive baking dish and put then into the oven.
5. Over the next 2-3 hours, periodically mash the fat with a potato ricer or the back of a large spoon. The fat will gradually separate as a clear liquid.
6. When you are satisfied that you've separated out most of the fat, remove the baking dish from the oven and allow it to stand until it's cool enough to be safe, but warm enough to still be liquid.
7. Pour through a cheesecloth into jars.
8. If you plan on using the lard for crusts, cool it as quickly as possible by placing the jars in cold water so it will harden quickly.
Finished lard has a long shelf life but I keep mine handy in my fridge door.